LATE SUMMER IS MAGICAL

Today the temperature went up to 28C which is very warm for West Cork. Beautiful sunshine and blue sky added to our pleasures, and a little breeze made it so that I could work in the garden. Our very overgrown and wild garden, our Ark, has attracted an enormous number of insects and butterflies during the summer months, and still there is a great number of hoverflies, a fair number of bumblebees, and many smaller flies, as well as butterflies visiting and making life very pleasant especially knowing that we are helping with the upkeep of biodiversity in Ireland. Very necessary.

A delicate thistle seed landed among some of the late flowers.
Nasturtiums have overgrown the Lavender and the Mellissa, flowering beautifully, giving bright colours.
This is my favourite photo of this summer, so lovely to see the insects feeding on the dandelion flower.
The Oregano is almost finished flowering, from my observations these flowers have attracted the most insects, they have flowered all summer and have been buzzing unbelievable.
I guess that it will take me a great deal of time during the winter to identify all my insects, I have so many photos of them and such a variety. Fun for rainy days.

Wishing each and everyone a very nice September, my month, this month I will have my 70th birthday! Again unbelievable 🙂

EXCITING TIMES

Saturday the 31st of August saw Ian and myself tying the knot, we were surrounded by our children and grandchildren, sisters and brothers, and a few close friends. It was a very beautiful ceremony led by Helen Grubert who is an interfaith celebrant here in West Cork. It is a day to remember fondly for a long time to come.

Slowly life returns to normal routine. I do have lots of material, other than our wedding to write about and lots of photos too, and soon I will be back into my blogging mood. Until then I wish everyone of my dear friends and fellow bloggers a great start to a good autumn (or spring as the season might be).

WHEN SEEDS ARE STARTING TO FORM

It is that time of the summer when the garden has about half of its plants in bloom, and the other half is busy forming seeds and dispersing them too. Summer breezes are helping. And despite the cooler weather and the rain, or maybe because of it, the garden is very lush at this time, and seeds are starting to be plentiful. Personally I find many seed-heads very beautiful and usually want to take them into the house for the winter, this far I have only photographed them in the past few days.
Above are the seeds of one of the Willow-herb plants (Epiloblum). I grow these in the garden, that is to say, they come growing by themselves, and this summer I just let them be.

The photo to the right above are the seeds of the Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus), a medicinal plant that I grow in the garden, it is not for use as it is a highly toxic plant and not suitable for self-medication. The flower is pretty though and I get satisfaction from growing any herbal plant. The photo on the left are the seeds of the broad-leaved plantain (plantago major) I have one large one growing in the garden and it is beautiful. I use it mainly for treating insect bites, as a compress.

So this is what happened to all my glorious poppies, I have now a myriad of seed-heads and will be able to share many seeds, and use a few of the beautiful seed-heads as winter decoration inside.

While looking over the garden for seed-heads I found this green shield-bug nymph, and not only one of them, the garden is full of these beautiful little creatures, and that is no wonder either as earlier this summer there was a multitude of the adult type mating all over the garden. This common shield bug is native to Ireland and feeds on tree and plant juices. They are harmless.

The nettles grew very tall this summer, they are now in seed. I used quite a few in cooking, but mainly I grew them for the caterpillars of Red Admiral butterflies.

And this is a most recent photo of part of my garden. It has been and still is a truly wild experience. I would go into the garden and discover more and more wild plants and many insects and creatures. The thistles are easily 3 meters high and not yet at seed stage. I will have to contain them a little when they do seed as otherwise the garden will be impossible to walk in. I firmly believe that nature is very strong, it will never be totally destroyed, it will always survive.
Apart from everything else, the beauty of nature is what we need to survive mentally and spiritually.

MY EARLY MORNING WALK

A few mornings ago I awoke real early and immediately decided to go for a walk. The sun was still only just reaching over the hills to the East. A walk around the block, and a little bit further seemed very inviting. We live almost on top of a hill, the walk would take me along the top of this hill and then down toward the town centre and up again taking the path called the ‘rock’ which overlooks the centre of the town and the river Ilen in a most fantastic way. Some hundred years ago people used to live there in small cabins. The remains of these pre-famine cabins have been excavated. In some places the rock face had actually been used as a wall, even some niches were cut into the rock wall. See my earlier blog about this dig at:
https://gaiainaction.blog/2015/07/09/an-interesting-dig-in-skibbereen
This morning’s walk did not take me quite as far as the site of the rock cabins. However, the lane leading up to them is a wonderful bit of woodland, birds were singing beautifully, it was an awesome moment to listen to them there.

These are only some of the wild flowers that I find growing along the roadside, and in the Boreen along this walk. We are experiencing rather warm and dry weather in the past week or two and it shows in the abundance of flowers. And though insects in general are on the decline, I’ve seen several butterflies recently, among them a few painted ladies and one meadow brown.

And so the walk goes on, along the road leading down into the town. I have always admired this scenery.
So my walk carried on along all the many beautiful and interesting wild plants and flowers. The speedwell which I could not identify I have seen growing in a little brook along the road for many years. I think that it might be either creeping speedwell or thyme-leaved speedwell. Its leaves are glossy and they grow differently along the stem from most speedwells. A mystery to me! The common scurvy grass, also newly identified, grows in the same brook.

The abundance of wild plants and flowers is amazing and wonderful, while making the walks interesting and ever changing. Always something new to find and explore or look up after coming home. I am not sure about the bird that I hear singing but if you would tell me that it was a nightingale, then I would believe you, it was quite magical. The other bird was a chiffchaff.

Have you had an interesting walk recently? I know that many of my followers and the friends that I follow are into walking and enjoying it very much. May I wish you happy times.

SUMMER GARDEN ~ COMING INTO ITS OWN

The lavender is really at its best right now, after the bit of heat the last few days, and one solid day of refreshing rain last Sunday.

I love growing feverfew, it is not only a great herb, it also looks beautiful in the garden among the lavender and the marigolds.

And still the comfrey flowers, and it is visited constantly by the bumblebees. I noticed three different types of bumble bee today, this one a beauty, very light colouring, very fluffy, and large. As far as I know it is a carder bee, Bombus muscorum. The other two, a tiny type, and a regular one with two yellow bands, probably Bombus lucorum.

Among all the wild and garden flowers this summer I am still also growing some vegetables, and many herbs too of course. The large garlic was a succes this time, and the garden peas are doing real well.

This is the tall mullein plant of which I am growing a few this summer. The leaves are medicinal, but I have not used them so far.

This is just a little update at the end of this month of June, midsummer has just passed and I love the very early bright mornings, awaking at 4 o’clock very often while the first light appears in the Eastern sky, and the birds are singing, wonderful! And while the countries of continental Europe are scorching hot, we had a mellow feel to the day this afternoon with summer scents wafting up from the damp but warm earth, such a delight.

Henry James knew about these happy feelings when he said ““Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Are you enjoying a wonderful summer in nature?

ALONG THE WEST CORK ROADSIDES

Along the road between the little seaside villages of Schull and Ballydehob in West Cork, the growth of wild flowers is at this moment so luxurious and beautiful that it is just like driving through a beautiful park. Bravo for not cutting or using herbicides on these roadsides. This, at the moment is very much discussed in Ireland. We want our roadsides to be beautiful, but most of all we want to take care of the disappearing bees and other insects, we realise how urgent this is today. The beauty of flowers along the roads lifts the heart of even the most unobservant driver, because you cannot but notice the wealth of it all. Today I was able to take a few shots of these roadside wild plants and flowers. Here are just some of them.

A beautiful sky, a little breeze, and a meadow full of damp loving wild plants (as this meadow is wettish) Besides thistles there was quite a bit of water figwort, ragged robin, and lots of sorrel.
Schull is a little, but very popular seaside village. This is a view out to sea. The water is usually full of yachts and boats and in summer there is lots of activity going on here.

WILD SUMMER GARDEN ~ INSECT PARADISE

A look at our garden through the conservatory window on a rather dark day this summer, but it’s all good. This spring and summer I let all the wild plants grow wherever they wanted as first and foremost on my list was to give as much food as possible to the insects. It has worked too, we never had so many insects before. Some of the thistles at the back of the garden are now taller than myself, as are the poppies and some of the foxgloves.
It has worked, yes. At first we had a huge quantity of borage, then the kafir lilies started to flower and the marigolds, then in the beginning of May so many more flowers followed. Soon bumblebees, bees and hoverflies started to arrive. Honey bees seem to favour the kafir lilies, the bumblebees are partial to the foxgloves, the comfrey, and the borage. By now the lavender is also visited by all the insects.
As you can see, the garden is rather wild. My patch of garlic is totally overgrown with foxgloves and thistles. Unused leeks are growing and coming into flower soon, they are allowed and I am looking forward to see what they will add to the garden.
Apart from the kafir lilies we are having a super crop of red poppies which we are enjoying very much, as are the insects.
Foxgloves grow wild in Ireland, and so they just come to grow in the garden too. I love them and they are never without some insects visiting them.
Mostly herbs here, sage, oregano, lavender, Melissa, thyme, and some celery too.

ROCKS AND FOSSILS ~ A FASCINATION

Stones…..over the years I have gathered a huge collection of rock samples, of stones. I’ve had an interest in stones, in rocks and fossils ever since I can remember. I’ve always had this connection with the earth , and to me a stone was never a dead thing, no, rocks are alive, definitely in the sense that they evolve, they change, over millennia they change, and what is a millennia in context with the unfathomable, expansive, and the immense timescale of the cosmos. And so, yes, I think rocks are alive. And I’ve always had this affinity with rocks, but also with sand, and what other is sand than tiny pieces of rock, and what does sand do under pressure and given time but change into rock.

I was, for a large part when I was young, living in that part of Antwerp where sand had been dredged up from the river Schelde, this sand that we had in our gardens and everywhere else, was sea sand, and it was full of pieces of shell and other sea creatures. In a way it was like living on the beach. One day while on a walk with my family I happen to see something curious, I picked it up and identified it as a fossil, a fossil of a conch or some type of sea shell. I was eleven years old. It was the start!

And yet I did not end up studying geology, but in later life I did do a geology course with Tel-Aviv University and I loved it. At the time we were living in Gozo and all my research was done on the geology of the Maltese islands. I’m retaking this course in September but doing my research around West Cork. That’s the plan.

I always said that I would label all my rock samples when I retired, but to date, and after several years, this has not happened, that is until a few days ago when I had to move all the samples out of an old glass press in order to redecorate the living room. So, they are all spread out in the conservatory and now demand my attention totally. Some of my smaller samples I brought back from India, Mauritius, New England, Spain, Gozo, France, Uk, Portugal and Naxos. And of course I have some very interesting samples of Ireland itself. Among my many samples are limestone, basalt, quartz, marble, malachite, soapstone, etc.

A little sample of copper ore in quartz, from the ancient disused copper mines in Ballydehob.
Not too sure if this is actually weathered corral or rock?

Over a life time I found more fossils too, and I found crystals, as it’s not only rocks I’m interested in. It is a fascinating subject to be sure and there’s always plenty of rocks and fossils around. When we were in Gozo, I found the most beautiful citrine crystals, but I left them where I found them, like wild plants I don’t think I should indiscriminately just take away natural treasures from wherever I go. But I always take photos of course.

Our earth sure is a fascinating place and I mean to enjoy another bit of what it has to offer so freely, for us to admire and examine, study and enjoy.

Part of the collection of samples

BANDON TOWN – FULL OF HISTORICAL INTEREST

The other day, while Ian was undergoing tests in the hospital in Cork city, I decided to overnight in Bandon, which lies close enough to Cork, and I took the time out to explore a little of the town. I had never really explored Bandon, I only ever travelled through it. But I was nicely surprised, it has got a rich history and many interesting buildings. As I did not know much about these building as yet, I decided to do some research on Google and I used some history books to enlighten me. I had planned a visit to the local Heritage Centre, but it was closed. So I decided to take a walk down the long street past the Children’s Charity Store (a delight in itself). The street was mostly lined with houses to the left and an old empty brewery building, as well as a new one, to the right. Some of the terraced houses had been build by the Town Commissioners as artisan dwellings in 1912. Eventually I saw more detached houses and many beautiful mature native trees, the entrance to an estate looked picturesque.

Bandon town as it is now spans two sides of the river. At some point in time a bridge was built connecting the two sides, probably in 1864. British protestant Settlers were introduced into Bandon and the town became part of the Munster Plantation. A wall was built around the then town between the year 1620-25 of which parts remain to this day, use was made of slate stone. Every year a Walled Town Festival takes place in Bandon.

Photos below and above: So far these buildings or ruins remain a mystery to me, as I learn more about the town I will be able to fill in more information on these, some of which do look quite old. Townscapes can be quite beautiful to the eye I think. I often think that I would like to paint them.

Photos below: Interesting doorways, some Georgian (one on the left), some, I believe (the one with the pointed portico) was a style brought here by the Huguenots.

Below, looking toward the spire of Christ Church which is now the Heritage Centre.

Photos below: I found this intriguing wall all along Chapel lane and do not know if it is part of the old town wall, or not but I have asked for advice from Bandon facebook site and hope to be able to shed more info on this soon.

The Courthouse, in pale blue, and the Town Hall, which was built in 1862, to the left of it.

The photo below is of the side of the Courthouse. It shows a fine stone building underneath the plaster and paint of the façade. I loved the arches above the closed off windows. Also the old gate was of interest.

Although most of the houses’ facades are plastered and painted, I did see several stone facades too, dark grey, rough, slate stone. Some limestone too was used. And then there are many walls, skilfully built along the roads leading out of town (photos below), but also many to be found within the town. There is a great revival of conservation going on, the old town wall – part of which remains in existence are being preserved.

Photo below: This 16-sided stone building is the former Shambles, or meat market, and dates to 1818.

A view toward the St. Patrick’s church, a fine Gothic revival church, along which some of the old town wall runs.

I have so thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Bandon town and will return for more, as there is much more to explore, and read up on too. I hope that you enjoyed it a little too. These small towns are found all over rural Ireland and though very different from each other, they have many similarities too. I’m on my quest to discover more about them.

One of the publications which I read and found quite useful is: Irishwalledtownnetwork.ie